Abstract

Hannah Arendt’s vision of the constitutive link between stories and history, which she attributes to Homeric poetics, works as a response to the totalitarian will to eliminate life stories along with lives themselves. Arendt’s conception of narrative calls on both the necessity to narrate the lives lost in the horror of the Shoah and the need to tell them, so that the storybook of mankind recovers a meaning. W. G. Sebald’s creative prose—assembling autobiographical and biographical modalities, accounts, testimonials, and photographic documentation—responds to the problem, already announced by Adorno, of writing “after Auschwitz,” that is after the main chapter of the history of human destruction. His form of writing, his particular and inimitable literary style, consists of an original narrative that, much more than any other discursive form, faces the challenge of restituting the sense of vulnerable lives crushed by a senseless catastrophe. Sebald’s narration, through particular stylistic techniques, preserves the displacement of the traumatized victims in the face of the unreality of horror, turning the reader into a participant. To narrate life stories, saving them from destruction, as Sebald does, is primarily a work of rehumanization, redeeming the meaning of the human from the ruins of the inhuman—as if every recounted story, snatched from oblivion, saves a possible sense of the human from its absolute negation in destruction.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1080-661X
Print ISSN
0028-6087
Pages
pp. 1-16
Launched on MUSE
2015-05-20
Open Access
No
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